Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Putting It Into Perspective : The Dating Ban

These are just my opinions, I am not claiming everything I say is solid fact. This situation is about perspective and interpretation so please try to respect that.
By now, this is a bloody common topic, probably discussed to death and beyond. However, in this post, I'd like to take a look at the way many of us see the Dating Ban, and hopefully dismantle some of the accusations made on account of the Ban. A lot of people seem to make assumptions about things based on this ban and, to be fair, there seems to be this resonating kind of...hypocrisy in a lot of what's being said. I'd like to point out, however, that I don't agree with the Dating Ban and I don't think it's entirely ethical, but I'm not 100% ready to berate it entirely.
Firstly, I find it odd that people deem the Dating Ban to be so damaging. I mean, yes, it is damaging, as proven by idol upon idol upon poor, unfortunate idol, but the opposite's not all sparkles and rainbows, is it? Well, in Japan, it's not that much of a problem (though, the uproar from fans in response to that FRIDAY article about Ai-chan (which was a flaming load of bollocks and you'd probably need to have had a javelin lodged carelessly into your skull in order to miss that) possibly suggests otherwise). But, the thing is, you see a lot of Western fans making this accusation. And, in theory, there's no issue with that. However, a lot of them seem to be taking this almost self-riteous stance where they single Japan out for its unfairness and cruelty. Yeah, because Western media deals with dating so nicely. A lot of careers have been hindered by the breaking of the Dating Ban rules - this was a punishment for the breaking of rules. Of course, I don't think the rules really make sense nor do I think a punishment is deserved. However, in Western media, there's another issue.

When Ai-chan got FRIDAY'd - because sharing cars and shagging come hand-in-hand
The Western Tabloids have this undeniable obsession with dating - who's dating who, who's dumping who, who's sleeping with who, who's cheating on who, who's talking to other people the same gender as their lover but aren't their lover and therefore sleeping with said other people which would mean they are cheating on their lover. It's a farce. But it's lapped up by the masses. I mean, it's an invasion of privacy. You might argue that huge celebrities should have to sacrifice that, but, surely, there's a limit. Regardless, these people are just people. Personally, I find this weird obsession with their love lives plain creepy. Recently, I read a biography, a Johnny Depp biography and I found myself getting a little bored of reading about his relationship with Winona Ryder (who is also great so it's not that I just dislike Winona). I mean, the author was taking a suitable critical stance in regards to the media reports on the situation but, after a while, I felt like I didn't need to know anymore. It wasn't really teaching me anything about Johnny himself. In fact, it ended up being more about Winona than anything but it still didn't teach me anything about her.

Maybe it's just me. I've never had a huge interest in that kind of thing. While other people are obsessing over this stuff, shipping people together, lamenting the fact that they're single, I'm kind of just...focusing on other things. My interest in romance is pretty miniscule. However, I still maintain that the media obsession with this stuff is kind of strange. And it's not just that they're writing about this stuff, it's the way in which they're writing about it. I mean, sure, Taylor Swift's an idiot by any standards, but I only feel that's the case because her tendency to write songs about every single relationship, all of which have the same basic story to them, and get praised by the masses for her 'excellent' song-writing skills (people only say her lyrics are good because she wrote them herself because, you know, she's clearly the only person's who can do that). Rather than pointing out that's she's clearly daft and thinks the world's against her because all the boys she dates need to be dumped, the tabloids just ridicule the number of guys she's dated. And, in the case of Justin and Selena, a couple made in Disney Channel heaven, the tabloids seem to present it as this big, dramatic romance with enough ups, downs, twists and turns to be its own over-the-top soap opera.
It's all too far removed from reality and full of hideous exaggerations. And then there's the blatent lies and trickery. Let's jump back to the Johnny and Winona deal (the only celebrity relationship I actually know enough about to use as a decent example). There was one occasion on which one member of the paparazzi actually attempted to trip Winona up, thus, understandably, infuriating Johnny who, in turn, flipped them off. He possibly told them to fuck off as well but I'm not so sure about that one. The paparazzi got this photo of Johnny flipping them off and twisted the story, claiming that Johnny was just been unnecessarily rude to them all, thus embarrassing Winona - who apparently looked embarrassed but, y'know, you probably would be if some stranger had just tried to trip you up in front of crowds of cameras. The whole Hollywood treatment of couples and relationships is a little horrific and full of lies. People get these terrible images of what celebrities are like, just because some people want to make some money.
Johnny and Winona - but aren't they so beautiful tho sobs

And, now, with the topic of money being brought up, let's return to J-Pop. Of course, the Dating Ban is just a way of guaranteeing that the money comes in. Many idol fans thrive of strange fantasies in which they themselves end up dating or marrying their idol of choice. If these fantasies are destroyed, the fans seem to lose all interest in the idol and, therefore, stop buying their merchandise. For the companies, that's money lost, especially if the idol's popular. If your idol is so popular that you know they'll still bring in the cash without these fans, then the scandal is brushed over and your idol might just stick around. Obviously, this isn't actually all that great but the heads of these companies want money and that's just how it has to work. Don't assume I agree with this in anyway, though. That capitalist approach to entertainment isn't at all appealing to me. Though it probably sucks to be told you can't date anyone, I'd suggest it's probably safer. It's a known fact that a lot of these idols are pretty young - imagine how a teenager would react to the strict paparazzi attacks mentioned before. Okay, I know Bieber and whatsherface aren't that old, and Winona was only about 18, but that has to be pretty stressful. Besides, in a country where work ethic is extremely important, something like could be considered a distraction. It's a cultural thing, in some ways.

Another issue I have is the accusations that this ban makes Japan so misogynistic and sexist. First off, male idols do have this ban, though people seem to ignore both his and the fact that male idols even exists, but, thing is, the punishment just seems to be less extreme. So, yeah, in the end, it's not that great - but that also depends on how you look at it. The only truly relevant male idols right now are the boys of Johnny's Entertainment and most of them are so popular that no-one really bothers all that much. Or maybe they're just better at hiding stuff? I have a suspicion that some companies seem to milk these scandals out anyway. It's weird, though. Dating is the one area in which Johnny Kitagawa isn't a total psychopath.

But is it really about gender? Let us consider the case of KAT-TUN-lead-vocalist-turned-soloist-who-was-too-focused-on-working-in-America, Akanishi Jin. He and actress/singer, Kuroki Mesia, had a shotgun wedding at the beginning of last year, an occasion that send violent ripples throughout the J-Pop fandom. Meisa was suspended from work, but not on account of getting married but on account of being pregnant - I mean, it wasn't a punishment, it was maternity leave - and Jin? Well, he was punished. In fact, he had his whole concert tour cancelled - the main reason was, apparently, because he never told Johnny about the wedding in advance. The marriage also enraged many way-too-obsessive fans and Jin's career plummeted. And now the baby's born, Meisa's back in business while Jin? He's yet to return to showbiz. In this situation, the woman won out, right? The one who was never an idol (though Jin was no longer an idol at this point)?

Jin and Mesia, going for a stroll.

Though I do think the Dating Ban rule does generally border on misogynistic and cruel, my main issue lies again in the fact that most of the people making these accusations are Western fans acting as if Japan is just so backwards and old-fashioned unlike the advanced Western world. I laugh. I fucking laugh. The world of Western media is a mess of misogyny and it's not at all pretty. Need examples?

Let's start with the obvious example - Chris Brown. As we all know, he beat Rihanna up. Now, I don't know if he's a woman-beater or just a violent prick cause he does beat up quite a lot of men too, but, yeah, either way, violent prick. But, as I'm unsure, I'll use this as an opportunity to instead focus on the media representation of the issue. Sure, plenty of people hate Chris Brown for his actions but he's still as famous and as popular and as successful as ever. Furthemore, when Rihanna started going back out with him, what did we do? We lashed Rihanna with accusations of her being blind and stupid. Y'know, ignoring that's actually a thing, this need to return to your partner despite their violent actions towards you - I don't know the name but whatever. Rather than dealing with the issue in a sensible way and assuming that Rihanna might need some more support in getting over Chris Brown, she gets insulted instead. The decision to suddenly blame the girl despite her inflictions...yeah, way to go, Western media. So slick.

I mean, Chris Brown gets the most stick for his actions, even though, as far as anyone knows, he's only ever assaulted one partner. I actually read an article recently that made a pretty good point - Chris Brown is black. So many white male celebrities have done similar (and worse) things but they don't get ridiculed for it nearly as often. Well done, Western media, for playing on ugly racial stereotypes and being generally shitty.

One example of a white male celebrity who has gotten away with worse is the infamous Charlie Sheen. I mean, he's assaulted quite a lot of women, even threatening one with a knife and holding another at gunpoint. What does he get? The chance to play a sexist prick for years on Two and a Half Men. And what does he get after being kicked off of that? The lead role in Anger Management, a show that basically just passes off every awful thing he's done as charming and funny. No-one gives Charlie Sheen half the shit they give Chris Brown, even though what he's done is way worse.

But this all get worse when compared to the case of Kristen Stewart. These two bastards were allowed to continue on with their careers regardless of being violent shits (and doing drugs, in Sheen's case), yet she is branded as a liability because she had an affair. I mean, affairs aren't great but they're not as bad as domestic abuse. But, y'know, no-one has ever called those two a liability, certainly not Sheen who is still seen as a marketable comedy actor. I mean, the only reason for which Kristen Stewart should be seen as a liability is her lack of ability to pull different faces properly and the fact that casting her would do as much good as casting a piece of carboard that's in a pretty awkward situation. Yeah.

So, all in all, sure, the Dating Ban is shitty. But Japan's not the only country with issues in regards to celebrities. Generally, I'd say the world of Western celebrities is a lot worse and lot more vicious. But, us Westerners, we're so self-entitled - we want to see everything, regardless of how weird it is. We're self-riteous, putting down other countries as if we have no flaws of our own. Well done us. And, of course, in regards to the obsession with Celebrity Couples in general - since when was anyone given the right to complain about the life choices of a total stranger. You don't have any say in what some person you don't know decides to do, who they decide to date. Are you some kind of overbearing parent. Cut it out and get on with your own life. Or at least obsess over some less invasive aspect of your favourite celebrity.

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